The Lagos governor hosted the Managing Director of British-American Tobacco.
An anti-tobacco advocacy group has asked Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State Governor, to issue an “unreserved apology” to Lagos residents for hosting Keith Gretton, the Managing Director of British American Tobacco Nigeria, BATN, last month.
In a statement, on Monday, the Coalition Against Tobacco, CAT, said that Mr. Fashola’s action signalled unacceptable level of indifference to the public health hazards caused by increased youth smoking in the state.
During a courtesy visit by Mr. Gretton at the Lagos House, Ikeja, the Lagos State governor had lauded the tobacco manufacturing company for creating job opportunities for Nigerians.
Mr. Fashola had also added that the Lagos State government would continue to maintain a conducive environment for the company and other businesses to thrive in line with its objectives of “aggressive investment” in infrastructure and security to improve the business environment.
The coalition said that Mr. Fashola’s silence following the “outcry” that greeted the visit of the BATN boss smacks of disrespect for the fundamental rights of Lagos residents to “a sound, healthy environment as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which the Governor swore to protect.”
“Not only is the BAT MD’s visit to the Governor absurd, the silence of the Governor on the whole charade that the visit represents is also shocking,” said Toyosi Onaolapo, National Coordinator of CAT.
“For the Governor to prioritize profits over health is very disturbing because Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global health treaty under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO), expressly identifies a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry interests and public health policy interests.
“It goes on to say that the tobacco industry produces and promotes a product that has been proven scientifically to be addictive, to cause disease and death and to give rise to a variety of social ills, including increased poverty.
“Therefore, Parties should protect the formulation and implementation of public health policies for tobacco control from the tobacco industry to the greatest extent possible,” she added.
Ms. Onaolapo further noted that Mr. Gretton’s visit had elicited several editorials and articles in the media from “faceless groups we believe have links with the tobacco companies in their bid to whitewash the public with lies.”
“We are used to these antics because similar tactics were used by tobacco industry face groups in the period leading up to the Public Hearing on the National Tobacco Control Bill in 2009,” Ms. Onaolapo said.
“We want to remind the governor that Article 5.3 of the FCTC which Nigeria signed in 2004 and ratified in 2005 requires that, in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.
“We daresay that in giving (BATN) a pat on the back, the governor is inadvertently stabbing Lagosians on the back.
“We therefore join other civil society and health groups asking the Governor to stop further interactions with (BATN) and reject their Greek gifts.
“We also demand nothing but an unreserved apology from the governor for even granting a company that promotes a product that kills its users audience in the first place. Nothing short of this is acceptable,” she added.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...